As the end of class bell was ringing one day in 7th grade science class, I started feeling a little funny. Not the kind of funny you get in junior high when the girl you have a crush on sends you a note, but more like the strange feeling you get the first time the dentist gives you laughing gas and the world starts becoming more and more distant a n dd reamlike. . .
The peripheral vision on my right side started to become sparkly and slowly started disappearing. The students were all getting up to leave for the next class, and I carefully started to follow along as best I could, still feeling spaced out and now unable to see to my right. I somehow managed to make it through the halls and get to my next class, and for the following 20 minutes or so I sat quietly in my chair until I felt like I was back in reality, except I brought back an intense pressure headache in my right temple.
That's the memory I have of my first migraine, and ever since then I have had a similar experience approximately every 2-3 years with a couple exceptions. For most of my life I never knew what was happening until a friend told me that it was a migraine, and now after looking into them more I see they are called migraines with "aura".
I created a timeline for them one day and noticed that they occurred around the time of personal growth, and this got me thinking about the cause of these intense neurological storms in my brain.
With the simple understanding I have of how the brain works I know that "neurons that fire together, wire together" (neurons are nerve cells in the brain). This means that the neural pathways (thoughts) that we travel regularly (think on a daily basis) create long-term relationships (memories and identity) and bind themselves together making it tougher to see or think things differently because the established pathway is the easiest one to travel.
When we interrupt the pattern of traveling the same neural pathways, i.e. start thinking in new ways and behaving differently over a consistent period of time, the brain in its effort to be more efficient will break apart the old unused connections and rewire itself. This is called neuroplasticity which "refers to the potential that the brain has to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt, as it needs." (www.whatisneuroplasticity.com)
The brain can create new pathways more easily than breaking apart old ones, and that's why old habits die hard even though you may not have done it in a long time.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Well after much contemplation and meditation around why these migraines were happening, an explanation arose from within that has helped me accept them as a positive part of my life.
The explanation that I have given myself for what is triggering my migraines is that the old neural pathways are being broken apart, destroying my old identity and view of the world, as they are no longer needed or serving me at each new stage of personal development that I reach, leaving only my new views of myself and the world around me.
Now I am no doctor or neuroscientist so I can't say for sure that this is actually what is happening. This belief simply gives me an explanation that appeals to me and puts me at ease giving me a reason to explain this medical mystery. If you suffer from migraines, talk to your doctor to see if there is anything they can do for you. I was prescribed medication once but I didn't find it to help me. Perhaps it will have better effects for you.
The following is a complete list of all the migraines I recall in my life with an explanation of a possible reason for the brain to reorganize itself and cause a migraine with aura.
First Migraine in Junior High. New school. New classmates. New teachers.
The second migraine that I recall came on in a class in college that had us read two self-help books. I only took this class because I needed credits and a couple fraternity brothers said it was an easy class. Little did I know that it would have such a big impact on me. I read "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" and learned that I didn't have to stress myself out all the time. Big game changer for me. New views on the world and how to deal with stress.
This migraine occurred while at Val Surf in Studio City with my girlfriend at the time, and we had recently moved in together. Big shift in my life!
This was the first migraine that I noticed it affected my memory while it was happening. We were having a conversation about a friend of hers, and I got confused over his name. It just didn't sound right to me when she said it, but after the migraine episode was over, my confusion was cleared up. I couldn't understand why I would even be confused at something that I knew. It was scary to be aware that my brain wasn't working properly.
I had just completed the 10-day Master Cleanse (aka The Lemonade Diet) and during the 4-day transition period afterwards, I don't think I drank enough liquids one day and possibly triggered a migraine. Even though it might have been dehydration that caused it, being able to complete the full cleanse showed me that I was able to commit to a challenge and see it through to completion. It was a major personal achievement and helped destroy old beliefs about myself and create new ones.
This was the first time that I had two migraines in one year. The first occurred towards the end of a school year in which I seriously took on the role of making an impact on students' lives rather than just teaching math. It was a great year, and those old neural connections needed to be broken in order to make room for new ones. (Side note: this was the first time I went to see a doctor about it, and he diagnosed it as a migraine and prescribed medication to me.)
2008 August 15th
The second migraine of 2008 came on a couple hours into the first Reiki II class I ever took. The Reiki Master had warned me that my energy levels would shift as I was stepping into a deeper relationship with Reiki, and I did not expect a migraine since I just had one three months prior. The good news was that after resting for a few hours I was able to use one of the tools I got in the Reiki II to alleviate the pressure headache later that evening.
After the longest break between migraines of recent years, one came on while I was writing in my morning journal. I thought I was done with migraines since the 2-3 year cycle was broken, but this one showed me I had more growth ahead of me. This particular migraine came after one of the most challenging years of my life (2012) where I resigned from teaching high school math, became a Reiki Master, and dealt with the biggest heartbreak and depression of my life while living in a foreign country with no support system for two months. I was no longer the person I thought I was supposed to be by this point in my life, and my brain needed to rewire itself into a new identity.
2016 March 22nd (one day before a Full Moon)
After a visit to the doctor where the receptionist told me that my insurance plan had changed and my copay would be much more than I expected, this migraine was triggered by sunlight reflecting off of my stainless steel sink into my eyes while I was preparing lunch. Perhaps that's all this was, but I would also like to think that it was my brain rewiring my relationship with money because of how nonchalantly I handled the news about the increase of my copay without freaking out. I've had issues in my relationship with money, and my actions in this circumstance were much more mature than in the past.
2016 April 7th (New Moon)
While in the middle of giving a Reiki session, I noticed my vision starting to go into its migraine-static mode, and at first I thought I was gaining a new ability to see energy with my physical eyes until I realized that this was just the start of another migraine. This threw me off because I had never had migraines so close together. I kept myself composed and finished the Reiki session, and immediately went into another session that was scheduled right after it without taking a break. I figured that I would be receiving Reiki as I was channeling it so it would be best for me to go on with the session.
The significance of the timing with this one was that my girlfriend and I were planning on moving in together and had set a date for it to happen meaning I had to confront any old beliefs that I had about myself and relationships. Being divorced and having survived from painful heartbreaks, some of these beliefs were strongly ingrained in my identity, yet they were all being challenged by my current relationship with its strong foundation of communication and support. Breaking down old neural pathways was necessary for me to continue to be a new me in a healthy and successful relationship.
2016 June 5th (one day after New Moon)
This one occurred a week after returning from a five-day training in Jikiden Reiki (Jikiden translates to "direct teachings") where I received 6 attunements every day. To say that my energy level changed after that class would be an understatement. For this migraine I was able to recognize it as it started and immediately started giving myself Reiki to help with the pain. I ended up giving myself Reiki for 3 hours that night, and for me to dedicate that long of a time period for self care was a big change.
2016 July 25th (6 days after Full Moon)
This one came on while driving back from Lake Tahoe with my girlfriend and luckily I was about to pull over for lunch. Again, I wasn't expecting this one, and it caught me off guard. Luckily she was with me and able to take over the driving duties after our meal. I believe the restructuring of the brain this time was also dealing with my thoughts and beliefs around relationships, especially trust, and it's funny that I had to hand over the wheel and trust her to be in control since we just had a deep and open conversation about our fears in relationships a couple days earlier on our drive up to Tahoe.
I'm hoping that I'm done with migraines this year and can take some time off for a while, but I know when they come back, I’ll be transforming to a new level of being that is closer to my authentic and best self.